5 Secondary Components


The title is a clear, specific statement of the subject of your report. Think of the words in your title as key search terms. It introduces the reader to your paper and lets them know what to expect.

Titles should:

  • Be concise and informative and need not be complete sentences.
  • Avoid filler words like “Studies on” or “Investigations of” and opening words like A, An, or The.
  • Be as specific as possible.
  • Avoid abbreviations and jargon.
  • state the results.

Vague Titles

Specific Predictive Titles

(Good for Research Proposals)

Particularly Effective Titles
A Study of Aquatic Plants in a Pickle Jar Elodea Canadensis proposed to have greater [DIRECTION] abundance [DEPENDENT VAR] when in competition for space [INDEPENDENT VAR] with Ceratophyllum demersum in a Model Aquatic Ecosystem [SYSTEM]


Addition of caffeine (INDEPENDENT VARIABLE) to aquatic culture in concentrations of 0.1 to 0.5M decreases (DIRECTION) the stem length (DEPENDENT VARIABLE) of Phalaris arundinacea, reed canary grass (STUDY ORGANISM)
The Effect of Salt on Aquatic Waterflea, Daphnia magna Red light expected to increase biomass and average hypocotyl length in Brassica rapa compared to far-red light *Brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) grown in acidic water (pH of 3-5) have faster heart rates than brine shrimp grown in water with pH of 7-9

*If your report constitutes the results of an experiment where you manipulated variables and analyzed the result, include the independent and dependent variables, the direction of your results, as well as the study organism/ subject in your title.

How will titles be evaluated? To see our expectations for your Title, see the Biocore Research Paper Rubric in this Writing Manual.


In scientific journal articles, the first author listed is the primary author, and subsequent authors are listed according to the magnitude of their contribution to the study.  Research mentors such as principal investigators (PI’s) of labs, are typically listed last.  If all authors have made equivalent contributions to the article, then the paper will state that authors’ names are listed in alphabetical order.

In Biocore you will work within teams to do independent research projects, but we usually ask for individual lab reports because we want to give you many opportunities to work on your writing and thinking skills.  At other times we will ask you to submit group posters and PowerPoint presentations.  Here is how you should list teammates for various Biocore assignments:

  • Individual papers or mini-posters:  List yourself first as the primary author under your title, then list teammates as contributors at the top of the page in alphabetical order. Also list your lab section and TA.
  • Group posters or PowerPoint presentations: We assume that all of you have made equivalent contributions to these collaborative group assignments, so include all researchers’ names as authors in alphabetical order.

Parenthetical Citations Within Text

  • Cite all information that you use from published or unpublished sources in the body of your paper and provide full citations in the Literature Cited section at end of the paper.
  • Parenthetical author-date format within a sentence or at the end of a block of text. Provide the last name of the author(s) and the date the work was published, both enclosed by parentheses. Example: Global warming is a looming threat to biodiversity (Peters and Lovejoy 1992).
  • More than one source, list them in chronological order: e.g. (Jones 1992; Smith and Jacobs 1993; Torrez 1995). If a work has more than two authors, you may list the first followed by et al. (latin for “and others”) and the date: (Jones et al. 1995).  However, the names of all of the authors must be included in the list of citations at the end of the paper.
  • Unpublished information: If you cannot find a published citation you can site personal communication in the body of your text – NOT in the literature cited. The format for unpublished information or data communication to you by a colleague is the source followed by “personal communication” or “unpublished data”: e.g. (Maria Rodriguez, personal communication 2002; Biocore 382 class, unpublished data). ***Use these sparingly as sources usually are not formal and cannot be verified easily. DO NOT base the major foundation of your study on personal communication unless the information gained is unique and not found elsewhere.

Literature Cited

List all works cited in the text – and no others – alphabetically in the References section at the end of your paper.  The specific format used for references varies depending on each journal’s conventions, web-site format and the type of source to which you are referring.  We would like you to use the format demonstrated below which follows the Name-Year system. Each reference should include the names of all the authors, the date the article or book was published and/or the date the website was accessed and its title.  Regardless of the exact format used, make sure that you are consistent!

Here are some examples to follow:


Format as follows:

Author(s). year of publication. Title of the article (with only the first word capitalized). title of journal plus volume (issue): Inclusive page numbers.

One author example

Vitousek, P.M. 1994. Beyond global warming: ecology and global change. Ecology 75: 1861-1876.

Multiple author example

Post, W.M., Emanuel, W.R., Zinke, P.J., and Stangenberger, A.G. 1982. Soil carbon pools and world life zones. Nature 298: 156-159.

Internet Sources

A full discussion of number and types of internet resources is beyond the scope of this manual.

However, the following is a general guide for most articles that are published on the internet. As with all resources, especially those found on the internet, you must be wary of the source and its validity. If it doesn’t have an author or publication/ posting date BEWARE!

Format as follows:

Author(s). Year of publication. Title of the work. Title of the complete work or website or on-line journal plus volume (issue) if available/ applicable. Website URL or address (except for online journal or personal email). Date you accessed the web page.


Carbon, J.J. Physiology data. Personal email (7 July 2010).

Listserv or RSS feed newslist:

Blystone, R.V. 1994. Setting up a digital classroom and other stuff. biolab@hubcap.clemson.edu (accessed May 10, 1996).

World Wide Web: Basic form is: Author. Date. Title. URL (Access date)

Waterman, M., Stanley, E., Soderberg, P., and Jungck, J.R. 1999 Kingdoms entangled: molecules, malaria, and maise. BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium. http://bioquest.org/case.html (accessed  April 12, 2012)

Macreal, H. 2001. Large Fish, Small Pond. http://www.bigfish.org/articles (accessed April 20, 2001)

Splice, G. 2000. Mutations are the Ultimate form of Variation. University Press Weekly vol 22. Electric Library. http://www.elibrary.com/ (accessed October 17, 2011).

*Note: Do not write out a website address (URL) as a parenthetic citation within the text of your paper—instead include the author and year of publication (e.g. Macreal 2001), just as you do with all other publications. Whenever possible, list the author. If you can’t find an author, list the organization that provided the information. If you can’t find the name of the organization, question the quality of your source.

Biocore Lab Manual

You will be citing one of your Biocore lab manuals in many of your research papers.  To do this, look at the lab manual chapter to find the author(s) you wish to cite and the example format below.  NOTE: This is an example for the Biocore Prairie chapter of the Biocore 382 lab manual.

Example: Batzli J. and McGee S. 2017. Biocore Prairie Restoration Project. In Batzli, J. M., editor. Biocore 382 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory Manual, Fall 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Book Citations

Format as follows:

First author’s last name, First initials, subsequent authors’ name separated by commas, year of publication, title of book (italicized, with only the first word capitalized), edition number (if it is not the first edition), the publisher, the city of publication, and the state (omit the state for well known cities like New York).

Whole Book

Kuhn, T.S. 1962. The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Purves, W.K., Sadava, D., Orians, G.H., and Heller, H.C. 2001. Life, the science of biology, 6th ed. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA.

Chapter in a Book

Naes, A. 1986. Intrinsic value: will the defenders of nature please rise? In Soulé, M.E., editor. Conservation biology: the science of scarcity and diversity. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA. pp. 504-515.


Paper Formatting

Daria Nepriakhina by Epicantus is licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

Please use the following conventions for your reports:

  • Double space or 1.5 space your text. This allows your TA or peer reviewer to write comments between the lines without struggling to squeeze words into the margins.
  • Use 11-12 point font.
  • Keep a 1-inch margin around all of your text. Margins make your papers easier to read and provide room for comments.
  • Use headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings help you to organize your paper and provide clear signposts for your readers to follow.  Examples of headings are the major sections we described above (Introduction, Methods, etc.).  Long sections and those that include distinct parts should have subheadings.  For example, the Methods section of an ecology paper might have the following subheadings: Organism, Study Sites, Data Analyses.  Use a 2-point larger bold font for headings and a bold font for subheadings.
  • Don’t prepare a title page – save a tree. Simply center the title at the top the first page of your report.  Likewise, don’t bother with a special folder for the report – a single staple in the corner is sufficient.
  • Target Audience– Write for readers who are fellow Biocore students but are not in lab.
  • Spell check and proofread every paper before turning it in!


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Process of Science Companion: Science Communication by University of Wisconsin-Madison Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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